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Canopy Advisory Group connects 'highlancers' with jobs

A report in October from The Freelancers Union and Upwork showed that 54 million people in the U.S. are freelancing, and 60 percent of them are doing so by choice. That's nearly a third of the 157 million people working in the U.S.

Denver's Canopy Advisory Group is focused on the higher end of freelancers and helps connect 'highlancers' -- professionals who still want challenging work but might be single mothers or Baby Boomers who still want to work but not full-time.

Canopy's highlancers are professionals who have had 10 or more years at big firms. They are professionals that made careers in marketing, non-profits, strategy, law and finance. "Many of them feel that their experience in the corporate world has left them disillusioned and dissatisfied," says Brooke Borgen, who founded the company with Griffen O'Shaughnessy in 2009. " Acting as independent consultants, highlancers have ownership over their careers. This particular aspect is appealing to high-achievers who crave challenging assignments and meaningful work, as well as flexibility and freedom to balance family life and personal interests."

"Canopy has about 40 highlancing consultants in its current portfolio and continues to selectively bring on new talent as opportunities arise," Borgen says. "We have specifically chosen to be a boutique firm that thoroughly vets new members and knows each consultant personally, rather than becoming a giant database of names and skills." The company has expanded out of Denver and into Seattle and plans to have an active group of 15 to 20 consultants there by the end of next year.

The company creates access to these freelancers as consultants and serves as an advocate for them. "Our consultants earn a higher hourly take-home rate through Canopy than they did through their previous full-time jobs because of Canopy's low overhead," Borgen says. She adds that their pay rate is between $75 and $175 an hour based on the project and client.

Borgen and O'Shaughnessy say they spend a lot of time in coffee shops with business and nonprofit leaders to understand their needs and see how Canopy's consultants can meet them. The company also encourages its consultants to do engage in business development and they receive a bonus for bringing new clients into its portfolio, which is helping it grow its network of clients and consultants.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Golden's HomeAdvisor to open Denver office amid new purchases, partnerships

HomeAdvisor, an online home services marketplace formerly known as ServiceMagic, is getting ready for its next big moves. That includes opening up a sales and training office at 15th and Wazee streets in January and relocating its headquarters and 300 or more of its more than 900 positions from Golden to Denver.

The new sales and training office in Denver is designed as a training and leadership program to help develop small business leaders and entrepreneurs, according to spokesperson Brooke Gabbert. "It's to build and capitalize on what Denver is seeing right now. Developing the entrepreneurial spirit and growing them as leaders," she says. "We plan on having 60 to 70 employees in that office." She says the company plans to open that office on Jan. 4.

That program, Gabbert explains, calls for a two-year commitment and will develop develop small business leaders as well as prepare participants for sales and leadership jobs within HomeAdvisor. As such, she says it's a program that's similar in some aspects to those available through Galvanize or the Commons on Champa.

Also, the company hasn't finalized its plans yet but Gabbert confirmed that it plans to move its headquarters from Golden to Denver. "Being closer to downtown is better for recruiting," HomeAdvisor CEO Chris Terrill told The Denver Post. "It will be a place we can grow. We're actually growing so quickly that when we started the process of looking downtown, we're already larger than we thought we'd be."

The company is making other moves. It recently announced a partnership with Google allowing homeowners to book appointments with home service providers Google's search results via a "Book Now" option. "No other player in our category is able to power instant scheduling at such massive scale," Terrill said in a release. "It will also drive more qualified customers to the small businesses in our marketplace -- a marketplace that will drive an estimated $25-$30 billion of gross marketplace transactions this year alone."

In addition HomeAdvisor's parent company, IAC/InterActiveCorp, made a bid to acquire HomeAdvisor's rival Angie's List for roughly $512 million. "The combination of the Angie's List brand, highly trafficked website and its network of paying service professionals with our HomeAdvisor business, the category leader which has seen eight consecutive quarters of accelerating growth in its core U.S. business, would cement our position as the premier home services platform," said Joey Levin, CEO of IAC/InterActiveCorp. 

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Commons on Champa will host local 1776 Challenge Cup for startups

On Nov. 24, the Commons on Champa will host the local event for the international startup event, 1776 Challenge Cup. The event precedes the regional competition in New York and the global competition in Washington, D.C., where winners will compete for more than $1 million in prizes.

This year Denver is one of 45 cities around the world hosting a local competition. Local judges will choose three winners that will be flown to the Challenge Cup Regional competition in New York.

The Challenge Cup is produced by 1776, which bills itself as a global incubator and venture fund. The cup is a worldwide tournament, according to the organization. "Together, with our Startup Federation partners, Revolution, the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) and over 50 incubator hosts around the world, we’ll discover the most promising, highly scalable startups that are poised to solve the major challenges of our time," 1776 officials explained in a statement.

The local competitions around the world will select a total of 135 winners who will then compete for the regional and international prizes. Happy hour and opening remarks begin at 5:30 p.m. and winners will be announced starting at 8 p.m.

Registration to compete in the Denver event is closed, but people can register to attend the free event here. Information about the selected competitors should be announced by Fri. Nov. 13.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Stellar Jay launches leather tie line that could only come from Denver

Certain things make sense coming from the Mile High City, like Stellar Jay's new ties. The ties celebrate the spirit of the West with one of its classic fabrics, leather, harnessed in a unique way in neckwear.

Stellar Jay is the creation of Zach Blaine in RiNo. "All of my products are cut from full leather hides in small batches. From there, I work with a small network of seamstress locally to perform the stitch work," he explains. 

While the ties are, well, tied, leather, obviously, isn’t as pliable as silk or cotton or other materials commonly used for neckties. "The leather neckties . . . are all made from suede leather, which is more pliable than other leathers," Blaine says.

"This material folds easily in your hand and the narrow cut allows for an easy fold. That being said, the best knot for this kind of tie is a four-in-hand," Blaine says. "A full Windsor knot could be a challenge. The neckties are approximately 1/16-inch in thickness. The bow ties fasten with an adjustable leather strap."

The leather ties are relatively simple, basically a single color and with stitching on the edge, which Blaine says offers structure and durability to the tie. "The stitching also adds a nice contrast to the color of the tie and helps draw the eye to the necktie.  As long as the tie is properly cared for it should have exceptional longevity -- untying the tie after use and hanging the tie on a hanger to avoid wrinkles." 

Both Zach and his brother are building businesses out of their RiNo Apartment. His brother is designing furniture from repurposed materials in Cambodia, which is currently only for sale in Cambodia but has plans to expand to the U.S. Meanwhile Stellar Jay is currently available online, but Blaine is looking to get into physical locations.

"I am targeting primarily small boutiques, which already capture the aesthetic we are looking for," Blaine says. The ties are available at Decade, Fancy Tiger, Steadbrook and Berkeley Supply and other stores in Denver.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

goingto.do launches 2.0 integrating Uber transportation, beacon tech

So you're stuck in a city on a Tuesday night and don't know what's happening. That's where goingto.do comes in. It's an entertainment app built in Denver that connects users with local events from around the country by harnessing big data.

The free app designed for mobile devices has just launched its second version, bringing a new user interface, as well as a host of other information and features that take advantage of a smartphone's capabilities. The new features include Uber integration, iBeacon functionality, weather information, push notification capability and Canadian events.

"We are excited to announce the release of goingto.do version 2. We have worked quickly and strategically to offer our growing user base the most efficient and informative services yet," says co-founder Bryan Basset. The company launched in 2104, showing the speed of moving to the second version and its new important functionalities. "The Beacon capability will drive business and spontaneity among our users."

By taking advantage of a device's GPS capabilities the app begins to narrow interests down to a location. Adding a users' preferences further narrows that information down to their interests and location. It also offers directions on who to get to the event as well as coordinating Uber transportation.

The free app also allows beacon capability for businesses. This allows local businesses to provide location-based events, deals and promotions through the app's push notifications -- things like a flash sale at a retailer or a happy hour at a watering hole. The company says it's the only one to offer such a service for businesses.

Business owners can submit ideas for events on the app's event management screen, and leave it to goingto.do to help with the promoting and managing. The app is available for Android and iOS-equipped devices, including smartphones and tablets.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Relevant ReUse turns old skis into new jewelry

Relevant ReUse is finding ways to make your old castaway skis, wood scrap and other things into handsome, interesting and functional furniture and is creating one-of-a-kind wallets out of recycled leather and bike tubes and skis into unique jewelry -- just in time for ski season. More importantly, though, the company is giving disadvantaged women a second chance.

"Relevant ReUse is a local, woman-owned, jewelry and furniture business, which supports our mission by contracting our employees to make handmade jewelry out of old, upcycled skis," explains Mile High WorkShop Director of Operations and Production Jeremy Katz.

Relevant ReUse owner and designer Heather Mullins partnered with organization to give women recovering from addiction, homelessness, or former incarceration a chance to start over crafting the jewelry and the company's other recycled goods. Mullins contracts and trains Mile High WorkShop employees to handcraft the earrings and prep them for sale and each sale helps support the job training and employment program at the Mile High WorkShop in Englewood.

Considering that ski and holiday seasons are about to get underway it's an ideal time to launch a unique line of jewelry. By design all of the jewelry is unique. "The beauty of this jewelry is that no two pieces are identical. The skis have been cut to ensure that every necklace or pair of earrings is completely unique," Mullins says.

Currently Relevant ReUse's products are available at a number of spots in Denver, including Re-For Your Home, I Heart Denver and Icelantic Skis.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Uber's AMBER Alert program, piloted in Denver, goes nationwide

Uber announced that its AMBER Alert program was launched nationwide after successfully being piloted in Denver. The company began testing the implementation of the alert system, which is designed to alert people in a geographic area by any means necessary about an abducted child in the region, in July 2015.

The Colorado-based branch of the ride service developed the idea and brought it to fruition. Explains Will McCollum, general manager of Uber of Colorado, "These are real people on the road at that time, they're the eyes and ears, and if they can help out local authorities our drivers want to do so."

As of August 2015 the AMBER Alert Program has been vital to recovering 772 children across the U.S. It's a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies and the wireless industry and pushes out all available information about serious child abductions. They're broadcast through radio, television, road signs and all available technology, including cell phones. Uber harnessed its power as a network of drivers and riders to incorporate the service.

"The AMBER Alert program's success is built on the ability to reach the right people at the right time with these potentially life-saving messages," says Robert Hoever, director of special programs, Missing Children Division, National Center For Missing & Exploited Children. "Uber's presence in communities all across the country will be an incredible asset and we are proud to team up with Uber to increase the reach of the AMBER Alert program and help bring more missing children home safely."

Uber's drivers in more than 180 cities across the U.S. will now receive time-sensitive and critical AMBER Alerts specific to their region through their app. The company explains that its "driver-partners" now receive geographically targeted information that may help to locate and recover a missing child as soon as a bulletin goes out.

"As a data-driven company, we understand the power of information for communities," Uber says of the service. "Since day one, our mission has been to connect people with reliable rides through the use of data and technology. As our footprint has grown throughout the years, so has our ability to use the Uber network in different ways."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

The Whole Works takes The Wright award for 2015

On Oct. 20, SPACE Gallery hosted the annual Wright awards from Something Independent celebrating the intersection of lifestyle and leadership. The Whole Works won the 2015 Wright and the $5,000 award that came with it.

The annual event, organized by Denver's Something Independent, focuses on identifying companies that are exhibiting leadership at the intersection of lifestyle and commerce. The Whole Works, a new clothing production facility in Rifle, won the award this year. The company works with customers, including Colorado's Voormi, to produce products as needed.

"As one of the first public benefit corporations in the state, we are focused on making a social impact by partnering with a job preparation program that teaches production sewing to women who are transitioning from federal assistance," the company said in a statement.

Thanks to its operating model, the company said it is able to promise shorter turnaround times on projects and produce smaller volumes of orders. It's a selling point as more companies are looking to re-shore manufacturing in the U.S.

This year's other finalists for The Wright were ReActive Adaptations, which makes off-road handcycles and downhill machines and The Public Works, a Denver-based design, fabrication and multimedia marketing firm.

The event had fully 125 applicants in 2015. Judges winnowed the number down to 10, then three and finally chose the winner.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Faction introduces FAST hybrid cloud customizations for customers

Denver's Faction is upping the ante on cloud technologies by launching Faction Advanced Solutions Team (FAST). The team is dedicated to developing cloud services for clients that are customized to their needs.

"Faction prides itself on delivering truly customized cloud platforms, unlike other cloud providers who typically only offer one-size-fits-all options," contends Faction CEO Luke Norris. "Through our Faction Advanced Solutions Team, our customers have access to some of the most talented and innovative cloud design experts in the industry."

While the cloud is out there many options don't allow for a lot of customization. Faction's software-as-a-service platform allows for more customization and its FAST services will allow for even more customization. The company says its services can be structured as a private cloud, public cloud or a hybrid system.

For instance, earlier in 2015 its services helped Altitude Tickets sell 140,000 tickets for Garth Brooks at the Pepsi Center in under three hours. By offering the company an opportunity to use increased CPU, RAM and storage during the initial crush of requests, it was able to keep the site from crashing.

While most of this can be handled with its services online, the company realizes that some customers will need more advanced solutions or ones that might not have been developed yet. "When deeper engineering expertise is required, for requests such as bare metal installations, calibrating applications for the cloud, or even hybrid cloud architecture development, FAST will execute these complex tasks to completion," the company explains.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

DAM seeks input from local creatives for 2016 programming

On Nov. 20, the the Denver Art Museum (DAM) will host Meet Here: An Evening of Idea Brewing and Creative Criss-Cross." The meeting is intended to bring together creatives from various disciplines to help develop ideas for DAM's programs in 2016. The event will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. The museum is welcoming all sorts of people in the creative community from chefs to dancers, crafters, musicians and artists.

The brainstorming session will help the museum plan out its Untitled Final Fridays, a series of events that the museum offers on the final Friday of every month except November and December. "This program offers a unique museum experience with unconventional art encounters, new insight into the DAM collections, artmaking activities and more," DAM explained in a release. "At each Untitled event, the museum highlights a specific theme with exhibition-related activities and community collaborations."

In addition to the Untitled series, attendees will also be able to give input and insight into museum residencies and outdoor installations. This year, museum officials are particularly focused on dance and it wants to have outdoor dance programs in summer 2016.

While the Nov. 20 session is designed to help the museum create relevant events tailored to its community, it already has some broad themes planned for each date. ere's a list of the date and proposed themes for each event:

  • Jan. 29: Family Matters  
  • Feb. 26: Homegrown
  • March 25: Risky Business
  • April 29: Show Down
  • May 27: Rising Sun
  • June 24: Power House
  • July 29: In-Sync
  • Aug. 26: Center Stage
  • Sep. 30: Stop Motion
  • Oct. 28: Glory Days

RSVP here.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Denver 8 launches new brand, shows

The municipal TV station, Denver 8, recently launched a new brand identity and advertising campaign, "It's All About Denver," aimed at meeting the changing needs of the city. The new campaign is designed to showcase the station's award-winning and new, exclusive programming.

The new campaign includes a new logo, website, outdoor billboards and television as well as newspaper ads. To launch the new campaign Mayor Michael Hancock, local musicians and Executive Chef Troy Guard are appearing in the campaign touting the slogan: "Denver 8, It's All About Denver."

"Denver 8 is leading the way in dynamic and cutting edge municipal TV programming," asserts Denver Media Services Director Julie Martinez. "We want the community to know about our Emmy Award-winning programming and the special coverage we provide for everything from new local music, to the visual arts." This year, the station's lifestyle show, Dtown, won a Heartland Emmy Award, for instance.

The campaign focuses on programming like Dtown as well as its local music shows including Denver Loft Sessions and Red Rocks Premieres, both of which premiered over the past year. It's also focussing on the station's upcoming shows, including ArtScene and a new collaboration with Mile High Sports Magazine to introduce a sports talk show.

The station is attempting to gain new viewers with the campaign and educate them about the information and shows that Denver 8 offers to residents. The station is available on Comcast and Century Link on channel 8 and in HD on channel 880.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Alchemy Strategy Group uses visual mapping to spur organizational success

Alchemy Strategy Group has launched in Denver to help companies up their game with visual mapping and other tools. The consulting firm likens its services to success insurance.

"Healthcare, government, nonprofit and private-sectors deal with complex problems and challenges every day, and it's harder and harder for them to prioritize -- especially as they are asked to do more with less," says CEO Lois Todd. She explains using stories and maps to communicate a business plan can make it easier to explain the strategy than normal business plans. "People need maps to understand where they are going, so why not 'strategic maps' for businesses?"

The visual mapping service offers companies a different way to encapsulate their growth plans and strategies internally and to clients and investors. "We find that organizations are searching for more meaningful and creative way to articulate their vision and strategies, and we never lose sight of the importance of aligning and connecting people," explains Todd. "Visuals, as well as the metaphors we use to assist in telling a company's story, cause an emotional connection to a company's reason for being -- and that translates into higher employee engagement and productivity, because people are psyched to work at a place that knows where they are going and has a plan to get there."

Clients include the State of Colorado, the City and County of Denver, Children's Hospital, Galvanize and Kaiser Permanente Colorado.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Pettag+ launches Kickstarter to develop connected pet tracker

Denver's Pettag+ recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to introduce a connected pet tag. Essentially the tag connects with an app, already available for iOS devices and soon available on Android devices, to track dogs and cats and lets their owners monitor their activities and basic health.

"We have applied the same on-the-go connectedness that humans enjoy today with the pet world," says Shahir Ahmed, founder and CEO of Pet Tag Plus. "We want to focus on ease of use and affordability for pet owners to make their lives easier. Pettag+ brings the power of the cloud to the pet world, for the first time."

The device fits on a pet collar and has a Bluetooth chip with a 150-foot range allowing owners to track a pet nearby. It also uses crowdsourced GPS to track a pet's location in case they get lost. If they do get lost the fob has a QR code that allows a person who finds a lost dog or cat with the tag to scan it and notify the owner and can contact the 24/7 800 number to notify the PetHub network behind the connected device. Since the device can connect to up to seven people it can be useful even if the owner is away and the pet is being watched by a friend or pet-sitter.

For night walks and to confirm which buttons were pressed the device also features LED lights, is waterproof to 20 feet and designed for what dogs can dish out. It operates on a watch battery that typically lasts for a year.

Pettag+ comes with basic access to the PetHub network and users can upgrade to a premium version of the network if they choose to do so. Owners can create a profile for the pet, which includes information about its health and goals. Its accelerometer, allows pet owners to track their pet's activities and how much exercise it's getting.

The device is priced affordably. "It has become very apparent that the average consumer doesn't want to spend the $100 to $200 price of other connected pet products, so we have developed our unique solution to the connected pet with a simple lost and found feature that actually is proven to work," Ahmed said. The device is $65 and people can purchase it for $25 via Kickstarter.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Entrepreneurs assemble: Denver Startup Week passes 10,000 attendees

Denver Startup Week surpassed more than 10,000 registered attendees this week. That’s roughly triple the amount of people who registered for the first startup week in 2012. It also makes it the largest free entrepreneurial event in the country.

The event has proven more popular every year, drawing not only more attendees but also more sessions and bigger names. This year the entrepreneur’s festival had more than 230 separate events. That's up from 70 in its first year.

But if you’re worried the action stops with the end of Denver Startup Week today, don’t. On Oct. 9 next week the the Colorado chapter of Entrepreneurs' Organization is hosting the Rocky Mountain Entrepreneurial Summit at the Hyatt Regency by the Convention Center. This event, however, isn't free. Tickets are $395 a pop, which includes four tickets to The Motet and Flobots at a private show at Red Rocks.

This summit features Lance Armstrong, Aron Ralston, Amy Van Dyken, John Jacobs, Brad Feld and other local and national business leaders. It's a long day of sessions, too, starting at 9 a.m. and ending at 10 p.m. at Red Rocks.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Guerrilla Gravity wins $30K JumpStart BizPlan award

Denver-based mountain bike fabricator Guerrilla Gravity took home the top JumpStart BizPlan Award from the Denver Office of Economic Development (OED). The company won $30,000 and consulting services aimed at helping the company grow

"Denver has become a mecca for innovation, where the next generation of startups are growing and reaching new heights here each and every day," says Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. "We're proud to celebrate the best and brightest business ideas emerging out of Denver, and to shine a spotlight on the importance of our small business community."

Guerrilla Gravity, which manufactures at its retail bike shop, offers customized mountain bikes in a direct to consumer business model. The OED says that a wide variety of companies applied to the JumpStart competition, Among them were companies involved in healthcare, manufacturing, technology and consumer electronics, apparel, as well as retailers and restaurants.

Guerrilla Gravity competed with finalists Arthroventions and Übergrippen Indoor Climbing Crag for the award and additional services as part of Denver Startup Week events. Each of the three businesses presented their business plans and answered questions before a panel of business experts. The event was presented by Deloitte and U.S. Bank. In addition to the cash prize Guerrilla Gravity will receive legal counsel from Polsinelli, strategic marketing services from dovetail solutions, and entrepreneurship mentoring from TiE Rockies and Rockies Venture Club.

In addition to the JumpStart awards, OED and its partners also hosted a junior entrepreneurs. Sport Cabanas, a startup created by Chris Cordova and Janeth Mancha, won the TeenBiz Plan Award. The company offers tent rentals and setups for youth sporting events. The co-owners won a $5,000 cash prize.

"Today's event is proof positive that there is no shortage of great entrepreneurial ideas sprouting from Denver's youth," asserts OED Executive Director Paul Washington. "The future of our small business market is sure to remain strong thanks to the  healthy pipeline of ideas and innovations sparking across generations."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

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